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Archive for the ‘cakes’ Category

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I’m feeling rather tropical as of late. Must be the heat or maybe its the 24-hour cycle of Olympic events from Rio that is emanating from every electronic device I own. All this broadcasting from Copacabana Beach is making me crave tropical drinks with long straws and plastic monkey decorations like nobody’s business. A recent stop at the local produce market persuaded me to grab case of ripe mangoes bought on the cheap. I can never resist a deal. I immediately ate one warm out of the case, sticky orange juice running down my arm. The next day, I did the same thing with a cold one. I like them better cold. Two down, six to go. I made some coconut sticky rice and sliced the third one on top. Five left.

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I had two pressing matters last week. First, I needed to make some space in my freezer, which was packed to the gills. Second, I needed a coffeecake. The situation I was facing was not an unusual one in my world; I was helping two friends, one a butcher and one a photographer, with a photoshoot. They had procured a big, beautiful pig and over the course of two busy days were going to break down (i.e. butcher into various cuts) and photograph the beast. Hence my needs: I knew I’d be coming home with a lot of beautiful pork and nowhere to put it and I knew with no budget, there would be no lush breakfast funded by a paying client. As happens with weekend shoots, we’d be tired and hungry, necessitating a continuous flow of coffee and sugar. I perused the contents of my freezer and pulled out a bag of fat blueberries I’d frozen last summer. A coffeecake was in the works. Something nice to start two very busy, intense days.

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Why does coconut signify springtime? Is it all the lamb cakes that pop up at Easter time, thickly frosted and covered in a coat of shredded coconut? Do coconuts represent warm tropical climates just when our brains crave some sign, no matter how little, of sun and warmth and a new season? I’m not really sure but I woke up the other day with a craving for coconut pound cake. Go figure.

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I am a pudding fan, pudding of any sort: chocolate, butterscotch, rice, tapioca, flan, creme caramel, pots de creme, whatever. Sign me up. I was poking around the internet not long ago, as I do, and a recipe on Food52 caught my eye. Torta di Riso alla Carrarina. It was a rice pudding cake. Holy moly. A cake made of rice pudding on the bottom with a thick custardy layer, almost a flan, on top. I needed to do this. With Easter coming up, what better? I had a pile of leftover candied clementines from the Orange Chocolate Angel Food Cake I made last month that would be a delightful addition. That sealed the deal. Rice pudding cake, you would be mine.

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I have a banana problem. Maybe you do too. I frequently buy a few and never get around to eating more than one. So why don’t I buy them just one a time? Who knows. Maybe somewhere deep in my subconscious, a single banana is a sad, solitary thing. Maybe it needs a friend. Instead, I let the extras sit on the counter, first spotting then slowly turning from brown to darker brown and perfuming the kitchen with their sweet, cloying scent. Yep. Welcome to my life. Then, when I get around to it, I’ll peel the squishy things and pop them into a Ziploc which is shoved mercilessly into the freezer to deal with at a later time. Which is when the fun starts because now they’re ready for banana bread at the drop of a hat. And I do so love banana bread. Which is also great because guess what?? It’s National Banana Bread Day! YES! Another weird wacky food holiday on my recent list of weird wacky food holidays!

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I’ll be honest. I’ve been working on this recipe on and off for several years and it has aggravated me to no end. Originally, I wanted to use some excess Mexican chocolate I had on hand and having done hot chocolate, cookies and popsicles I thought a poundcake would be a wonderful addition. Sure. Guess again. According to my notes I worked through six different recipes, all of them duds. Terrible. I used up all the chocolate and then had to buy more. I wasn’t alleviating a problem, I was creating one. In frustration, I shelved it for almost a year.

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I have a fascination with candied citrus. It’s delicious, particularly when well executed and dipped in dark chocolate. I credit this to my Grandmother. She loved strips of candied orange rind but only the real stuff – no terrible orange jelly strips in cheap, waxy chocolate for her! Oh no, it was the expensive, slowly candied rind dipped in high quality dark chocolate or nothing. On my visits to Chicago, we’d wander down to the basement of Marshall Fields and find our way among the beautiful candy counters, looking for just the right treats. Oh how I miss Marshall Fields and their beautiful candy department! It’s just not the same these days, not even close.

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